Clinical trial: Neurocognitive markers of affective and psychotic disorders

Clinical trial: Neurocognitive markers of affective and psychotic disorders

Understanding the development of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder

Many people experience a combination of psychotic and mood symptoms that change over time, and often do not fit neatly into the diagnostic categories of ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘bipolar disorder’. Regardless of diagnosis, common treatments for psychotic and mood symptoms do not currently address shared cognitive deficits associated with these conditions.

Researchers within the UNSW School of Psychiatry and affiliated organisations are conducting investigations into a variety of factors involved in the development of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. We hope to learn about the genetic basis of cognitive markers of vulnerability for these disorders, which impact on social outcomes, the ability to regulate emotional experiences, and the brain mechanisms underlying the development of these conditions.

We are seeking people who are:

  • proficient in English
  • have a diagnosis of either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and
  • are aged between 18-60 years old

What does the study involve?
There are two individual testing sessions. During the first session, participants are interviewed about their experiences and asked to complete some questionnaires and cognitive tasks on a computer. On a separate day, participants undergo a brain scan and blood test for genetic analysis.

Participants will be reimbursed $70 for their time, transport and parking costs.

Contact Details For more information, please contact: Inika Gillis on (02) 8382 1436 or email inika.gillis @

Children who hear voices

Children who hear voices

Up to a one-third of children experience hearing voices that others can’t hear or seeing things that others can’t see. So what might cause some children to have a persistence of these experiences and possibly even go on to develop psychosis? Dr Kristin Laurens spoke to Radio National’s Dr Norman Swan about this topic yesterday afternoon.

Schizophrenia Research Institute joins NeuRA

Schizophrenia Research Institute joins NeuRA

The head office of the Schizophrenia Research Institute (SRI) has completed its relocation to Neuroscience Research Australia’s (NeuRA) Margarete Ainsworth building in Randwick following the announcement of a merger between the two institutes. Soon to follow will be the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank as well as the Schizophrenia Library.

The merger creates, for the first time, a physical home where SRI’s researchers can work in close collaboration with each other, have greater access to resources and research facilities as well as increased opportunities to obtain shared funding.

In Australia, approximately 1 in 100 people have or will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime. It is one of the top ten causes of disability in the world. As such, schizophrenia research deserves to receive as much attention and funding as possible. The amalgamation of these two world-class research facilities will ensure that schizophrenia research will continue to go from strength to strength.

Both SRI and NeuRA have and will continue to maintain a focus on discovering the ways to better treat, prevent and cure schizophrenia. All of the funding and support that has been received from donors in the past will continue to be channelled into schizophrenia research.

Keep an eye on our latest research findings through this site, Facebook and Twitter.

Daniel Beck Memorial PhD Student Award: 2015 recipient

Daniel Beck Memorial PhD Student Award: 2015 recipient

The Daniel Beck Memorial PhD Student Award is given to applicants who are committed to and involved in finding ways to prevent and cure schizophrenia and who are enrolled as a PhD student.

This year’s recipient, Natalie Matosin (above), is an outstanding young scientist who is committed to a career in schizophrenia research. She is currently a fourth year doctoral student at the University of Wollongong. Natalie is trained as a molecular neurobiologist and neurogeneticist, and her research is about improving our understanding of the processes that underlie schizophrenia so that improved treatments can be developed. Natalie’s PhD research program has specifically focused on exploring the role of metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGluR5) in schizophrenia.

Natalie will use the award to extract DNA from brain samples to identify which genetic markers these individuals carry, and determine whether they are associated with the change in protein levels of mGluR5.

“mGluR5 has been of interest to many researchers over the last decade, because when this protein is deleted in animals, they exhibit schizophrenia-like symptoms including deficits in cognition (i.e. an inability to remember and learn). Since then, several landmark studies have gone on to show that drugs that increase the activity of mGluR5 can reverse these schizophrenia-like symptoms, and improve cognition,” says Natalie.

“The cognitive abilities of people with schizophrenia is strongly linked to their long-term functional outcomes, such as their capability to live alone, work, and essentially live an uninhibited life. Cognitive abilities are often affected by the illness, but unfortunately, they are largely untreated by current antipsychotics. mGluR5-targeting drugs offer a way to potentially treat these deficits and improve cognition and quality of life in people with schizophrenia.”

Daniel Beck was an extremely sociable and outgoing young man who enjoyed the company of a wide circle of friends. Unbeknown to everyone, both family and friends, in the last few years of his life Daniel was also struggling with mental health issues. His family have created this award in his memory to help further the understanding of schizophrenia and the best way to care for those suffering from it.

A.M. Wood Postgraduate Scholarship for Schizophrenia Research: 2015 recipient

A.M. Wood Postgraduate Scholarship for Schizophrenia Research: 2015 recipient

Congratulations to Jerzy Zieba (above, right, with supervisor Assoc. Prof. Tim Karl) who this year was awarded the A.M. Wood Postgraduate Scholarship for Schizophrenia Research for his project, The Effect of Lifestyle Choices (diet and exercise) on Schizophrenia.

Jerzy will receive $25,000 per year for the next three years to support his PhD studies. The A.M. Wood Postgraduate Scholarship for Schizophrenia Research is awarded annually to candidates whose work exhibits scientific excellence and whose project best adheres to the Institute’s vision for schizophrenia research.

Around half the people suffering from schizophrenia are obese or overweight. Patients are also twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome compared to the general population. Consequently, schizophrenia patients have an increased risk of developing hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes II or suffer from stroke and early death.

Poor dietary choices appear to be a key factor in the development of obesity and are likely to be exacerbated by limited exercise and side effects of antipsychotic medication. Importantly, poor diet has also been found to have negative consequences on the mental state of patients.

Conversely, there is evidence that diet and exercise can have beneficial, therapeutic-like properties in schizophrenia. However, it is not clear how ‘lifestyle choices’ (diet/exercise) impact on schizophrenia and the associated mechanisms involved are unknown. Thus, systematic studies are needed to clarify potential causes for poor diet and exercise regimes and their consequences for disease outcomes.

This PhD project will determine the impact of various diets and exercise on the development and severity of schizophrenia symptoms and accompanying health. Jerzy Zieba will also determine whether the schizophrenia risk gene neuregulin 1 and/or antipsychotic treatment alter dietary preferences or the effects of diets on schizophrenia.

We wish Jerzy the best of luck over the next three years and look forward to sharing the results of his research.



Announcement: SRI to merge with NeuRA

Announcement: SRI to merge with NeuRA

Minister for Medical Research, Pru Goward today announced $2.5 million over four years to support the development of new treatments and possible cures for schizophrenia through the amalgamation of two national research institutes.

“The NSW Government has committed $2.5 million to support the amalgamation of Schizophrenia Research Institute (SRI) into Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA),” Ms Goward said.

“The best outcomes for the treatment of schizophrenia will be achieved through the opportunity of these institutes to join forces and share their resources, expertise and knowledge.

“Schizophrenia is a devastating mental illness that ranks among the top 10 causes of disability in developed countries worldwide. With symptoms including profound withdrawal from family and friends, a decrease in intellectual abilities, hallucinations and delusions, sufferers’ lives are significantly impacted – in some cases forever.”

Professor Peter Schofield, NeuRA’s CEO said the new opportunities to tackle schizophrenia will be significant.

“The government’s support will also strengthen collaboration with researchers at the University of New South Wales,” Professor Peter Schofield said.

The funding allows researchers to fast track the early stages of discovery in the laboratory, to widespread translational and clinical research and clinical trials.
These assets will now be integrated into NeuRA’s operations, creating a centre of excellence in medical research.

“NeuRA is world-renowned for its schizophrenia research so consolidation will greatly enhance SRI’s research and give increased impetus to efforts to find better ways to treat and cure schizophrenia,” said SRI’s Chairman Norbert Schweizer.

“This is a timely opportunity to extend our capability and reputation as a world leader. We will build upon the talents and intellectual knowledge of a combined group of researchers,” said Professor Vaughan Carr, CEO, Schizophrenia Research Institute.

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Why your support is essential

Why your support is essential

“With the success rates  of our national research project grant rounds from the National Health and Medical Research Council dropping every year, it is a real concern for researchers in the medical field to keep producing dynamic and cutting-edge research,” writes Dr Francesca Fernandez-Enright in the latest issue of International Innovation (click to read).

The Institute-supported scientist, based at the University of Wollongong, highlights a very real difficulty faced by many researchers – the lack of government funding and support for essential research projects.

To read more about the Dr Fernandez-Enright’s successes, click here. Your ongoing financial support will ensure that her projects can continue. Please consider donating.

Biological Psychiatry Australia annual meeting

Biological Psychiatry Australia (BPA) will convene its annual meeting on Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd September, 2015 at Coogee Bay Hotel, Sydney.

BPA is a society for professionals interested in the advancement of biological research in psychiatry, with the annual meeting promoting academic exchange and collaboration between researchers and clinicians working in related fields.

Please visit their website for more information about the society. You can also email to join their mailing list and get more information about abstract submission, awards and the conference program.